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Douglas Anderson investigation widens

Douglas Anderson School opened in 1922.
Claire Heddles
Jacksonville Today
Douglas Anderson School opened in 1922.

Police could interview as many as 140 students as an investigation into teacher misconduct continues to unfold at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

Principal Tina Wilson alerted parents that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office may want to conduct voluntary interviews with their children. Students were selected based on "class rosters and participation in certain programs in recent years," Wilson said.

The investigation follows news that at least two families may be planning to sue the district over allegations at the arts high school, including the arrest of former teacher Jeffrey Clayton, who was charged with lewd conduct with a student. Two other teachers at the school have reportedly been removed from their classrooms for undisclosed reasons.

Police said Clayton rubbed a student's leg and kissed her during an after-school voice lesson. An arrest warrant revealed about 1,700 text messages between the student and teacher that started in August.

Duval Schools Superintendent Diana Greene informed parents last week that staff will be required to participate in training on ethics and responsibilities of education. Students will be offered voluntary, after-school training on their civil rights and strategies for rejecting and reporting inappropriate sexual advances.

Criminal and internal investigations are continuing, Greene said. In addition, an outside law firm is being hired to investigate employee behavior and the handling of reported misconduct at Anderson Douglas.

Some alumni and teachers have alleged that school administrators ignored misconduct complaints about Clayton for years. Some described a "toxic culture" they said has existed for decades.

Separately, the school district will "initiate a collaboration" with Denise Davis-Cotton, an expert in arts education who founded the Detroit School of the Arts, Greene said.

Davis-Cotton is director of the Florida Center for Partnerships in Arts Integrated Teaching at the University of South Florida. She has three goals at Douglas Anderson:

  • Establish and define norms and boundaries for the special craft of teaching in artistic fields, including norms and practices for any bodily contact.
  • Create procedures and policies to guide safe rehearsals and specialized student instruction typical of an arts intensive instructional environment.
  • Develop screening protocols to be used for the selection of performances or other works to be performed or produced by students.

Duval Schools received criticism nationwide in January after canceling a Douglas Anderson production of "Indecent," a play about censorship featuring a prostitute and gay Jewish characters. The district judged that the play was "inappropriate" for students.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at or on Twitter, @rroguski.
Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.